Hotel de Sens is one of the city’s two remaining Gothic residences complete with watchtower and dungeon (the other being Hotel Cluny on the Left Bank that is now an acclaimed museum for the Middle Ages). Critics complain about the authenticity of renovations made after the city purchased the building in 1911, but the end results have captured the vision of what a storybook castle should look like.Much of the original archecture remains. It is now a reference library for the decorative fine arts—with a reading room open to the public.
Hotel de Sens had a long lists of tenants after being built for Tristan de Salazar, the Archbishop of Sens. The most notorious was Queen Margot—La Reine Margot, or Marguerite de Valois. The daughter of Henry II, she became the ex-wife of Henry IV and took up residence here in 1605 to live out her last ten years. She was romantically voracious, taking on lovers well into her 50s, and, since she was balding, was said to make wigs from her paramours’ hair.
In 1606, a spurned flame killed a new lover, and then the queen watched from a window as the second lover, the Count of Vermont, was beheaded in the street. Even with all that, Queen Margot is best known as a key figure in the religious-political machinations of the time. Her memoirs, published posthumously, were the basis of an 1845 novel by Alexandre Dumas, and two movies, the last highly acclaimed in 1995, Queen Margot, starring Isabelle Adjani. Find out more in Walking Tour Seven, page 103 in your No Worries Paris guidebook.